The biggest website implementation mistake I see is still the Wall. People are just convinced that their offering is so enticing that people are going to be compelled to register just to find out if they’re truly interested in becoming a customer. This goes for free, freemium, and for-pay websites. I’m still shocked at the mistakes being made in this area. What’s the cause? Ego? Lack of creativity? There’s a solution.
In 2004 when I was doing research for my lost dog website idea I ran into a ton of websites behind a Wall. One in particular has stuck with me. The domain has since been sold (hint, hint, Walls suck) so I won’t link to it here. The website had a registration fee and a Wall. If you lost your dog you could pay to register and then you’d be able to search their found dogs list, etc. No public stats. No sample data. No idea if ANYONE was using the website (they weren’t). When I designed Fido Finder one of my ideas was to make it so obvious if/that it was used. And, I didn’t make people pay to register (that’s the mother Wall of them all, the Pay Wall).
Workarounds to the Wall
Groupon.com is hidden behind a wall…if you visit their home page directly. The home page is a wizard walking you through picking your city and registering with your email address. You have no idea if they are offering anything you want. But, they have allowed for viral sharing. Their city pages are open to the public, if you know how to find them (Google). The Houston page shows current deals with details. The site also allows for direct linking to the individual deals themselves without having to be a registered member to view the deal. This allows for email sharing. Without this “window” on the side of their Wall, Groupon wouldn’t have the viral traffic that has made it a household name.
Groupon home page attempts to get you to climb the Wall
You can find city pages, though, if you Google for them, or are linked to them.
Fab.com has an interesting workaround for insisting that their products be behind a Wall. For example, Fab advertises its products on Facebook. If you click an ad you’re taken to a landing page that shows the page content in the background with a “register/login” overlay. You can see a dimmed content page behind the registration box. You can tell that this content is what you wanted to look at when you clicked the ad. It’s just enticing enough that you might consider registering in order to see more about this product. It’s an interesting compromise. Fab’s business model is built on the concept of emailing you daily product offerings. Their goal is to get access to your inbox to sell more products. For their concept to work you have to give up your email address. It worked, at least for me. Fab developed a glass Wall that I could see through. I could tell what was on the other side, and I wanted to be able to access it. So I gave up my email address. And now they email me every day and often I click their product links. Hautelook.com has a similar interface. You can view the current “events” from behind the tinted window. But if you want full access you have to register.
It’s behind a Wall, but I can see what it is!
Ideeli.com, another fashion deals website goes about skirting the Wall in a different manner. Ideeli first takes a shot at getting you to register on their home page. If you’re curious enough and click anywhere on the page (away from the registration box) you’re taken past the Wall, it seems. You now are viewing the product catalog. If you click through to a specific product you can now “add to cart”. When you try to add to your cart you are informed that you must be a registered user. Ahah! And this is not the same as a retail site asking you to create an account for checkout, you will be registering to receive daily/weekly deal emails. This interface is a good alternative to completely hiding behind the Wall.
Ideeli home page, click on the woman and you go to the catalog
It will appear as if you bypassed the Wall. You can see the products!
Click on a product and click “Add to Cart” and your shopping is abruptly stopped.
Klout.com is a website that measures your Internet reputation. Currently the only people that care about someone’s Internet reputation are those of us who have a Google alert set up with our own name. Nobody really looks someone ELSE up on Klout, do they? If you happened upon your own Klout profile, which is often generated based on public Twitter (etc) data before you ever visit, you would see something like the image below. You can see that Klout has information about you, and your friends / followers. If you were curious enough, you would be able to register to find out what else Klout knows about you. Klout wants you to register and connect to all of your social media accounts. Giving you a sample of the data they have about you is enticing enough for most to sign up. If you’ve made it far enough to find your Klout page you’ll probably register to see what’s behind the Wall.
This is the Klout Wall. But you can see through it. Register to see more.
Instagram.com, by being a smart phone app, has a built-in Wall. You have to download the app in order to see what it really will offer you. The good thing about Instagram is that it’s built upon sharing. You can get an idea what the app offers simply by viewing other people’s photos that they have posted on Facebook and Twitter. Instagram wants you to register and follow these people within their app, sort of like following on Twitter. Most people have been introduced to what Instagram has to offer just by being a member of the Internet’s social media sites. Without this sharing push Instagram is just another behind the Wall photo filter app.
Putting a site behind the wall is most often a mistake. Getting traction for a site like this is expensive. Often the product offering isn’t good enough to support a Wall. Don’t assume that you’re website will be different from thousands of other failed sites behind a Wall. But if you need a Wall, consider some of these workarounds. Have a window and allow for social sharing to more than just your home page.